Swine Flu: Symptoms, treatment and tips to stay safe

Currently in Maharashtra, according to recent news reports, Swine Flu has claimed about 191 lives and as many as 1,772 people have tested positive for the contagion so far this year; this is alarming. The city is seeing a frightening rise in the number of swine flu cases; keeping this in mind, it is imperative that people identify early symptoms of this infection and seek appropriate preventative care before it’s too late

Maharashtra: Swine flu cases on the rise

Swine flu also denoted as H1N1, is an infection caused by any one of several types of swine influenza viruses. This is a highly infectious disease that can spread even through bare minimum contact with a person infected with H1N1 virus.

When infected people cough, spit or sneeze, tiny drops of the virus are released into the air. If you touch any surface on which these droplets have landed, elevator buttons, door knobs, flush knobs etc., you can catch H1N1 swine flu.

Some of the basic things a layperson should understand about this deadly infection is as follows:

What type of population is more susceptible? Additional care and precaution is essential for:

Children less than 6yrs and senior citizens above 65yrs

  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals who have undergone a transplant
  • Individuals undergoing dialysis
  • Individuals on drugs to improve/ boost their immunity
  • Individuals suffering from chronic diseases

How to identify the early symptoms? H1N1 symptoms are very close to the symptoms of common flu, and therefore it is very important to differentiate between the two. Symptoms of swine flu are as below:

  • High grade fever lasting for more than three days
  • Persistent cough & cold
  • Coughing blood
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Weakness and fatigue

Preventive steps: Follow these preventive steps to stay away from the flu.

  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid crowed places
  • Wear N95 mask while travelling (available at medical stores)
  • Consume high protein foods

In case you are recovering from flu:

  • Consume at least 2-3 litres of water or fluids (juices, soups etc.) each day
  • Avoid flavoured vegetables like capsicum, cabbage etc.
  • Avoid deep-fried food
  • Include probiotic food
  • Cut down on sugar intake & processed food
  • Consume home-cooked food

Understand the treatment: One should avoid taking over the counter medicines if you notice the symptoms of swine flu. You should immediately contact your nearest doctor or an infectious disease specialist. One will have to take a vaccination through injection or nasal sprays (this is if you are allergic to eggs).

How is it treated?

Some antiviral drugs that are commonly used to treat seasonal flu also work against H1N1 swine flu. These drugs work best when taken within 48 hours of spotting the flu symptoms.

The author is an Infectious Disease Specialist & HIV Physician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund & Kalyan